After working in customer service for the past eight years, I have learned many best practices in serving others, mostly through trial and error. However, it wasn't until I was asked in an interview, "what is your customer service philosophy?" that I began to link these experiences together into one overarching theme:
If you shut a door, open a window. Never let your "no" be the end of the road for a customer.
The truth is, when working with people, circumstances are rarely, if ever, black and white. We must all follow certain protocols and procedures...until you face a situation where a customer could fall on either side of the rule. So what do you do then? You open a window.
I mostly developed this philosophy during my tenure as an academic advisor and auditor at Texas Tech University. One of the worst parts of my job was delivering bad news to students. NO, that class is full. NO, your GPA does not qualify you for that major. NO, you cannot graduate because you lack classes. I absolutely hated being such a dream crusher.
I think this task was so awful because of the students' reactions. Naturally, they didn't like being told "no". After being yelled at for the millionth time, I realized their reactions really had nothing to do with me. The student had much higher stakes in this situation than I did. All they saw was me, the person standing in the way of their life. And yes, to a college student, my "no" impacted their entire life. Perception is everything in customer service, y'all. Even if I had nothing to do with their unfortunate circumstances, I was still an obstacle.
So I decided instead of just saying "no", I would say "yes" in another way. Open a window, if you will. Instead of saying a class was full, I would find them another class which would fulfill the requirement. Instead of crushing their dreams of pursuing one particular major, I would help them explore other options and get them contact information. Sometimes I couldn't help the fact a student wouldn't graduate, but other times I had the option to fit them in another class if I contacted the professor myself. I learned someone on the inside can cut through red tape much faster than a customer. I would use my knowledge and contacts to help my students, my customers, get the help they needed.
Here's what it all boils down to: the Golden Rule. Karma. Do to others what you would have them do to you. You reap what you sow. If you had an issue, wouldn't you want the customer service representative to go out of their way to help you? To brainstorm other solutions? To open a window? Of course you would.